We are delighted to present Currents, a new exhibition by Gilleam Trapenberg at Galerie Ron Mandos running from 23 September through 29 October.

Drifting through the currents of separate places, Gilleam Trapenberg has two worlds under his skin. From a studio in Amsterdam, his memories of an island upbringing are rose-tinted – just as a sun-soaked image of a palm-lined beach obscures a fuller picture of Caribbean life. Returning to the region at regular intervals, Trapenberg maps the textures of a changing territory through photographs – of the people he meets, the unassuming details that draw his eye, and the paradoxical landscapes of Sint Maarten and Curaçao: at once famous, misunderstood, seductive and in decline.

Where Trapenberg’s previous works delve deliberately beneath Curaçao’s surfaces, cutting through exported fantasies of an idyllic island paradise, recent chapters closely orbit his own shifting relationship to homeland. Forged in abstract colour, the New Suns project deploys a highly-seductive visual vocabulary to interrogate an archetypal Caribbean symbol, positioning Trapenberg as an active participant in – or victim of – the image culture he seeks to address. Elsewhere, a series of large-scale collages see the editing process take centre stage. Made in limbo, Trapenberg’s island archive is cropped, spliced, layered and continually rearranged, corresponding to the contours of his ebbing placement.

Like many Curaçaoans, Trapenberg first left home in pursuit of opportunities abroad. Negotiating the hybrid identities that emerge on distant shores, his newest work – Currents – is his most personal to date. Steeped in symbolism, the things that Trapenberg records point to an oscillating gaze – shaped by the influences of separate places. A wrecked boat sits stranded on an island beach; a prized scooter, protected from the elements in the heart of a home, promises its owner mobility and status; dilapidated doorways and shattered windows seem to form uneasy portals between divided worlds. Throughout, a succession of portraits observes young Curaçaoans looking out to sea, lured by the pull of something beyond the horizon – as if succumbing to a familiar transatlantic cycle.

ABOUT Gilleam Trapenberg

Born in 1991 in Willemstad, Curaçao
Lives and works in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Born and raised in Curaçao, visual artist Gilleam Trapenberg (b. 1991) now lives and works in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Orbiting his homeland, his creative projects look closely at the fabric of Curaçao’s social landscape, probing at the island’s many paradoxes. He searches beneath the portrayals and tropes of Caribbean life that dominate (Western) media cycles, using the camera to create necessary counter-images.

Occasionally, though, Trapenberg is himself seduced by the allure of the exported picture- postcard; on European shores, nostalgia and longing take hold, perspectives drift, and memories of home are easily romanticised. For the artist, this experience of a perpetual limbo between two distinct places – connected by the fraught legacies of colonialism, enduring flows of goods and people, or even the mass tourism industry – is a growing focal point of his work.

A graduate of The Hague’s Royal Academy of Art, Trapenberg first moved to the Netherlands at 19 years old. In the years since, his works have been exhibited at institutions such as Foam Photography Museum and Stedelik Museum Amsterdam, whilst his first photobook – Big Papi – was published in 2017. He was the 2020 recipient of Foam’s Florentine Riem Vis grant and is one of five shortlisted artists for the Taylor Wessing Photo Portrait Prize 2023. The shortlisted works will soon be exhibited at London’s National Portrait Gallery.